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Society, World

Why would the British left back Hillary Clinton?

The Democrat hopeful's legacy should be enough to turn off liberals, but many are happy to support her

There is a politician who until recently was lukewarm on gay rights, in favour of the death penalty, a willful liar whose most noted achievement (proposing healthcare for some uninsured) meant millions of her fellow citizens would still have no access to healthcare. This politician won’t defend abortion without the adding “rare” and won’t commit to a minimum wage in America (the world’s richest nation) as high as a British conservative Chancellor will. This politician is to the right, socially, of almost every serving Conservative member of parliament and, economically, far to the right of the Labour party. So why do so many on the liberal-left in Britain get excited about Hillary Clinton?

I don’t get it. Labour friends of mine, good people, are active supporters of Hillary Clinton. Not "Facebook status update" fans, but "fly across the Atlantic to canvass for Hillary in the snow" fans. Across the Labour party, people flew over to campaign for Hillary in 2008 and will do so again in 2016. These are people who will defend the NHS to their last breath, but see no contradiction in supporting a candidate whose chief spokesperson has gone out of his way to attack universal healthcare systems.

The ultimate establishment figure

Hillary is a politician who could not seem more out of place in 2016. In an era of the anti-establishment politician, for good or ill, we have the ultimate establishment figure: one half of a power couple who have remained at the top of American politics for nearly three decades. But the anti-establishment mood exists for a reason. Americans get very little from their government, yet some people do very well from government largesse, in particular the financial services industry.

Between 2000-2008, when the Clintons pleaded they were “dead broke” the Clinton family earned $109 million with a significant portion of this coming from speeches to Wall Street. Since the financial crisis, the Clintons have given paid speeches at American Express (AXP), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), Goldman Sachs, HSBC Holdings plc (HSBC), JPMorgan and JPMorgan Chase, Jefferies LLC, the Mortgage Bankers Association, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Pershing LLC, TD Bank (TD), the Vanguard Group, UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Company (WFC). The Clinton’s personal finances remain subject to considerable speculation.

Chutzpah doesn't come close

And while the Clinton’s feel protected by the American establishment, they persecute others for sins they themselves have committed. In a televised debate with Bernie Sanders, Clinton said of whistleblower Edward Snowden, “He stole very important information that has fallen into the wrong hands” and called for him to face trial under legislation that would deny Snowden a public interest defence. Clinton’s assertion was based on a single article in the Sunday Times, with a lone uncorroborated MI6 source. Journalists behind the disclosure of the Snowden files have rubbished this claim. But we do know it is likely that Clinton’s private emails while she was secretary of state have fallen into the “wrong hands” – in particular, Russia and China – because the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said so. It says much about Clinton’s character that she feels free to open a line of attack on data security and hound a whistleblower at the same time her lack of protection of US state secrets is being investigated by the FBI. Chutzpah doesn’t come close.

There remains no better demolisher of the Clintons than the late Christopher Hitchens and no better place to quote from than his scathing 2008 take on Hillary’s last bid for the Democratic nomination: "What would it take to break this cheap little spell and make us wake up and inquire what on earth we are doing when we make the Clinton family drama – yet again a central part of our own politics?"

For the sake of American (and British) politics, please, please draft Elizabeth Warren.

Mike is the publisher of Little Atoms and the Director of 89up. He has run high profile campaigns on Belarus and Azerbaijan, works with the Don't Spy On Us campaign and documentary film company BRITDOC on the Oscar-nominated film CITIZENFOUR. He has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times and Index on Censorship.